The Republican bill Gov. Walker signed into law on Wednesday that will dismantle the Government Accountability Board, which has overseen state elections and ethics. The GAB will be replaced by two commissions, both comprised of political appointees.
One panel will direct elections and enforce election laws, the other will enforce the state's ethics code. The change will fully take effect on June 30, 2016.
A bipartisan legislative vote created the GAB in 2008, a few years after charges were filed against lawmakers from both parties for essentially turning their Capitol offices into campaign raising operations.
Now, Republican state leaders contend that the GAB, which is comprised of six retired judges and an administrative staff, has ignored election concerns Republicans have raised and unjustifiably helped launch investigations into conservative groups and candidates.
Legislators from both political parties and the governor will appoint members to the new commissions. The members will then select the administrators of each commission. The new law requires the secretary of the Dept. of Administration to develop a plan for the transition.
Outgoing GAB Director Kevin Kennedy says, "there are still many questions about how the transition will happen, which we hope to answer in coming weeks, 2016 is a busy Presidential election year."
The group Americans for Prosperity applauds the changes. State Director Eric Bott thanks Gov. Walker "for taking a stand to restore accountability and transparency to the way Wisconsin regulates political speech and elections.”
On Tuesday, the GAB began preparing for revisions to Wisconsin's campaign finance laws, which Gov. Walker also signed into law on Wednesday. They include raising campaign contribution limits from $10,000 to $20,000, allowing corporations to donate to political parties and legislative campaign kitties and scrapping the requirement that donors identify their employer, if contributing more than $100.